UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

LIBERIA: Rebels refuse to sign Liberia peace agreement

ACCRA, 22 July 2003 (IRIN) - Both rebel groups in Liberia said on Tuesday they would refuse to sign a draft peace agreement unless changes were made that would allow them to play a bigger role in the proposed transitional government that would organise fresh elections.

Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) both vetoed the draft put forward by mediators in the Ghanaian capital Accra, dashing hopes that a definitive peace agreement might be signed on Tuesday.

A diplomatic source at the peace talks said the sticking point was a proposal to exclude the leaders of both LURD and MODEL from top government positions.

These would be reserved for the representatives of political parties and civil society groups who had not taken up arms in the civil war that has bedevilled Liberia for most of the past 14 years.

George Dweh, leader of the LURD delegation to the peace talks, told IRIN: "We have no desire to sign the agreement as it is. That document as it stands now seeks to leave out the main players who can bring peace to Liberia. The politicians cannot disarm the fighters."

"We have made our counter proposals, which we will present to the mediator and the other stakeholders today," he added.

Tia Slanger, the leader of the MODEL delegation, took an equally hard line. "If these political parties continue to give problems instead of giving meaningful suggestions on the formation of an interim government that appeals to all of us, MODEL will pull out of these peace talks," he said.

They were speaking as LURD fighters once more pounded the Liberian capital with mortar fire in fresh drive to crush the government of President Charles Taylor by force of arms. A 17 June ceasefire agreement lay in tatters and plans to send a West African peacekeeping force into Liberia remained on the drawing board.

General Abdulsalami Abubakar, the chief mediator at the seven-week-old peace talks, told reporters: "We cannot sign the comprehensive peace plan today or tomorrow because of current events in Liberia."

The diplomatic source said the rebels were demanding more time to negotiate, but the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which was brokering the talks, was pushing for a peace agreement to be signed quickly in order to stabilise the deteriorating situation on the ground.

Unhappy with the draft circulated by the mediators on Friday, MODEL proposed that an interim President be selected from nominees of political parties and civil society groups, but three vice-presidential slots be created for LURD, MODEL and the current government.

Slanger said the mediator's current proposals for the composition of an interim government were "unacceptable."

"We believe the peace process is stalling because of the involvement of the political parties and the civil society groups who are feeding ECOWAS with information that seems to suggest that they are part of this peace process, whereas they are causing confusion," he told IRIN.

A protest by Liberian women demonstrating against the continuation of the war held up the start of Tuesday's session of the peace talks for an hour.

"This is a protest against hundreds of needless deaths in Monrovia. We have sent a signal to the world that Liberian women are fed up with the war and the killing of our people," Leymah Gbowee, leader of the demonstrating women said.

"Tell the rebels and the government to stop the shelling and fighting. Next time we will demonstrate with over a thousand women," she added.

Gbowee heads the Liberian Women In Peace Building Network, a group which has been demonstrating for peace since the talks began on 4 June.

In Monrovia, fighting resumed on Tuesday afternoon around the Freeport area and in the western suburbs.

Military sources said the government was trying to dislodge the rebels from the port area so that it could bring in fuel and food. Both are running out in the the beleaguered city of one million people, where more than 200,000 have been displaced by the fighting.

Kabineh Ja'neh, a LURD spokesman in Accra, was quoted by several news agencies as saying that his movement had asked its fighters to cease fire. But Charles Bennie, a LURD political advisor, told IRIN: "We cannot stop fighting because the government troops are attacking us."

Meanwhile, the head of ECOWAS said member states were prepared to deploy 3,000 peacekeeping troops to restore peace in Liberia. These would be strengthened by a further 2,000 troops from other African countries.

ECOWAS Executive-Secretary Mohamed Ibn Chambas, said in Dakar on the sidelines of a regional symposium on peace and security organised by the US State Department, that two Nigerian army battalions would provide the vanguard of the proposed intervention force. It would receive logistical support and some equipment from the United States.

The symposium was being held as West African military chiefs of staff started a separate meeting in the Senegalese capital, to discuss the deployment of such a force.

Pamela Bridgewater, a US state department official told the symposium: "The United States is willing to bring a multiform assistance to peace efforts of ECOWAS. We will not run away from our leadership role in international affairs. But we should not and cannot act alone."

US President George W Bush has offered to send troops into Liberia on a short-term mission to support the deployment of West African peacekeepers, but only once Taylor steps down and leaves the country.

A flotilla of three US naval vessels carrying 4,500 sailors and marines has been put on stand by for possible intervention in Liberia.

Themes: (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Governance



The material contained on this Web site comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post any item on this site, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All graphics and Images on this site may not be re-produced without the express permission of the original owner. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2003

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list